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Your Business

News/Business. A focus on issues facing small business in the United States. New.

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Us 7, Lowe 2, Sammy 2, Daniel Kim 2, J.j. 2, Linkedin 2, J.j. Ramberg 1, Steven Cornell 1, John Yang 1, Brad 1, Steve 1, American Express Open Gold Card 1, Nbc 1, Approachable 1, Dell 1, Dollar 1, United States 1, Sam Chernin 1, Robert Kaplan 1, Maine 1,
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  MSNBC    Your Business    News/Business. A focus on issues facing  
   small business in the United States. New.  

    August 21, 2011
    4:30 - 4:59am PDT  

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they are catching a wave by having customers build their own surfboards and the man that gave us red mango give us his secrete secrets to success. we'll have that and more coming up next on "your business." small businesses are
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revitalizing the economy. american express open is here to help. that's why we are proud to present "your business" on msnbc. hi there, everyone. i'm j.j. ramberg and welcome to "your business", where we give you tips and advice to help your business grow. >> the nation's economic and unemployment troubles continue and as long as consumers aren't spending, small business owners can't hire. nbc's john yang reports. >> reporter: the more than 66,000 new job cuts announced in july were the most layoffs since march 2010 when the impact of the recession was hitting full force. >> these big layoffs are putting more fear into everybody. that's reducing job security, consumer confidence, that's not good for the economy. >> did you need some help.
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>> reporter: things aren't better at small businesses. they survived the earthquake and fire but second generation owner worries about surviving this economy. >> sometimes i lose sleep at night wondering will i be able to fund my payroll tomorrow and i don't want one of those checks to bounce. >> reporter: a new survey out from the small business association found that 88% of business owners expect the economy to be flat or in a recession over the next 12 months. only 29% say they expect to hire in that time. >> because they're not hiring, individuals don't see a chance to get jobs in the future so they're not spending. >> i want to delve deeper into the mood of small business owners. you have an interesting take in your small business column in "the new york times." we also have found of internet
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lifestyle.com and steven cornell is the owner of the hardware store that we viewed back in 2006. steven, great to see you. when we talked then, we were talking about health care and how you provided health care benefits for your employees. what's your outlook right now? are things really hard for you? >> i don't think they're hard but they certainly are flat. we have to look a lot more as to where i can make some more money. >> are you finding new places or is that tricky as well? >> not so much finding new places but we are looking at the places that we've always done and sort of minding those more. >> in your article you said times like these make you focus on what's important. >> they do. nowadays talking about the economic constraints that are here. i mentioned in my "the new york times" column, it was a blog written by somebody else who brought up the point that says when cash is tight, we're all as business owners really thinking harder about where we'll spend our money and there is a theory
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that says whether cash is tight or not tight, no matter how well you're doing, you should always be thinking like you are lean and mean as to where you will spend your money. some people kind of believe even though this is tough times, it's really challenging the best of us to make sure we're managing our money the best way. >> it resonated with me because i worked for a startup in 1998 where everyone had so much venture capital money and people waste it. there were the parties and things like that but even beyond that which is just sort of silly, just on marketing. let me get a big, splashy tv campaign and didn't care if it would work or not versus now people are being a lot smarter. you work with a lot of small business owners. what are they saying? >> right now it's the best of times and worst of times. we have so many people that are actually doing really well in different things and then you have people that are starting to struggle. the difference is in the value creation and where you can be unique. what steve has is this unique store. unique background. he can compete against home depot and against lowe's by
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actually enhancing what they're unique at so doing things home depot and lowe's won't do. creating experiences or unique workshops for their customers and consumers. there's only three ways to build a business. get more customers, get them to spend more and getting them to come back more. >> let's talk about getting more customers. i heard complaints from people that customers aren't spending money. is that what you're seeing? >> they're not spending as much as they used to. we can start looking for the ones who do spend it. my kind of business depends on a lot of turnover. when people leave their apartments, move out, somebody has to fix that apartment up and more people want to move back in and they want to change it to what they want. if i focus on looking for those people and those buildings, then i can find more customers. >> is there one particular thing about the economy right now that concerns you the most? >> not hiring. if other businesses aren't hiring people, we don't get as much turnover in the apartments
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around us and that's a problem. >> if i can just add, a few weeks ago i wrote a column in "forbes," 9.2% unemployment right now. i believe microsoft and other technology companies like them not that they're doing anything bad but just technology today is making business owners that much more effective and more productive. our gross domestic product right now is higher than it was than before the recession and yet we have 7.5 million less people employed than before the recession. why is that? a lot of businesses particularly small businesses are getting more stuff done with a lot less people. that's just a reality right now. >> a report was released that reflects this reality right now too. what can we do? if you guys could go talk to congress, talk to president obama, what would you say? what would you ask for? >> exactly what jean talked about is leverage gives small business owners a distinct advantage. if people are looking to get
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hired, they need to be value enhancers. they need to go where they can increase revenue. anything that they can do that will walk in and help a business owner get ten times multiple from hiring them. they will be hired. if they're not a value creator, they won't be hired. >> there are so many gimmicks. >> they're not stupid. >> they're not stupid. we won't hire people unless we're going to make money off of them. if you have a skill set i can use and profit from, i'll hire you to do that. not just because the government offers a tax rebate to do it. >> we have to wrap this up. thank you so much. so great to see you a couple years later. good luck with your business and getting your customers to spend more. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> a personalized experience. that's what two entrepreneurs hope to give every customer to buys one of their wooden surfboards.
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these small business owners welcome orders over the phone or online, they would like an intimate relationship. they offer their customers to come and build their own surfboard classroom style. >> we're trying to give people an experience. >> they run their business with a purpose and they want their customers to know it's personal. >> people have followed us for a year or two years and finally saved up enough money to do this. >> the owners of grain surfboards in maine take pride in their open door approach to sales. >> we're willing to talk to them and explain it. we really want to share this. >> this farm, which doubles as
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grain's headquarters, may not be the ideal setting for a surfboard company. >> cows out there. pigs in the barn. dogs running around. >> that doesn't stop mike and brad from giving surfers the chance to temporarily trade in their wet suits in the water to become their students. >> we have classes. everyone built their own surfboard before there was a surf industry. they want to reintroduce people to those ideas. >> they transform into teachers to share their passion with pupils. students included surgeons, airline pilots, models and even children. they come from around the world to immerse themselves in grain surfboards. >> seven days. each person builds their own board from start to finish. you can get the satisfaction of building a board with your own two hands that you'll enjoy that much more because you're connected to. >> all boards are made from locally harvested trees and grain is environmental responsible in its production. doing things like making sure as
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little wood is wasted as possible. once the students pick from one of grain's 19 designs, their educati education begins. >> we talk about the big picture of what we're trying to do that week. sketch is out. answer as many questions as we can. most of the time people are working on their own. >> there's a certain independence required for the gluing, sanding and glassing of surfboards but mike and brad are never far. >> we're always milling around. we really try to leave people to work on their own and figure things out. we don't want to be standing there telling them how to do things. part of the idea is to discover a little bit about themselves. >> if they want more help, we'll give them more help but we try to leave them on their own experience. we can watch and witness it and talk about it at lunch. >> mark carter is taking his first lunch at grain. >> you surf and you talk about getting stoked. they are super easy to talk to. very approachable. if you make a mistake it's kind
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of like it's no big deal. it's wood. we can work with this. having them here is a huge benefit. >> bob is actually building his seventh board. he says he's hooked. >> a lot of people just won't take the time to help you out. they have something going on. but if you have a question, the customer is number one with them. i keep saying i made my last board and they see me back again and again. >> it may be tough for some entrepreneurs to have their customers so close for so long, mike and brad say it's one of the best part of their jobs. >> if we wanted to just make money on people and get them a product and then they won't want to come here. we want to do this for people because it's at our place. we think it's fantastic this idea of building your own. >> customers can till reap the benefits of grain's personal service even if they don't take a class. if customers buy a board and have grain build it for them, brad and mike include them in the design process.
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many surfers up to buy kids with supplies to build their boards at home. even then the experience is as personal as possible. >> if people need help, we're here 16 hours a day answering the phone and answering e-mails. people are texting us. sending us videos of their board. people are building these kits. they're not doing it monday to friday 9:00 to 5:00. they're doing it at night and on weekends. those are times we have to be available. >> grain has actually increased the number of classes offered and once again customers have responded. >> people who normally might have vacationed somewhere exotic are coming here perhaps to build a board and have an experience that's more memorable and seems to have actual value for their investment and leave with a surfboard. >> grain surfboards is still a business. they want their customers to know it's about more than just money. it's about an experience.
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a very personal one. that they want to continue to share with each and every person. >> for us it's a lifestyle as much as a business. you can make a life that you can really feel is rewarding. we build this business and continue to build this business around a set of values that we have about how we want to live and live in the world. >> we don't want people to build boards that won't surf well or look good. we want to keep people happy and psyched. >> looking to create a custom design website for your small business? here now are five web services willie gei help you build a professional website without breaking the bank. square space is a website where you can do it for $12 to $36 for month. and weebly is a free service. you can choose from more than
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1,000 customizable themes. and jigsy hosts e-mail hosting and has a system for additional functionality to sites and then snappages is available for those intimidated. and yola's premiere plan costs around $500 per year and includes one-on-one consultation with professional designers. when we come back, advice on how to be an effective leader. and daniel kim, the man who brought red mango to the united states has cool things to tell us about business success in this week's learning from the pros. shazi: seven years ago, i had this idea.
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to make baby food the way moms would. happybaby strives to make the best organic baby food. in a business like ours, personal connections are so important. we use our american express open gold card to further those connections. last year we took dozens of trips using membership rewards points to meet with farmers that grow our sweet potatoes and merchants that sell our product. vo: get the card built for business spending. call 1-800-now-open to find out how the gold card can serve your business. >> if you are a fan of frozen yogurt, surely you have heard of red mango. they opened the first u.s. store
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in los angeles in 2007 to great fanfa fanfare. now there are more than 100 stores in 25 statsz and they're not done growing yet. daniel kim is the man behind the success and he's taken his brand beyond yogurt to smoothies, lip balm and more. we sat down with kim to kind his tips for entrepreneurial success. >> i think a lot of people make a mistake to try to invent something that hasn't been invented before. there are so many opportunities for improvement. frozen yogurt and smoothies have been around for a long time. there's no reason to enter this business but if there's an opportunity to make it better, go for it. we got into this industry by making it healthier, taste better and giving customers a better social experience they weren't having with frozen
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yogurt and smoothies in the past. don't worry about your competition too much. when i first started the company, i was always looking at what other people were doing and where they were opening stores and what kind of products they had and how many stores they had and i was trying to keep with them on these factors. we used to open near competitors or reactive to where they would open and go in there and try to be there for the sake of being there and now we don't do that anymore. we look at it from the customer perspective. do they need two frozen yogurt shops on the street corner? no. it's not healthy for the industry. hire people that are smarter than you is a mantra that i believe. there's marketing, franchising, real estate and big mistake you can make is think you can do all of the above and you can't. so early on i didn't do this because of my youth or i just didn't have any experience or expertise to really sell my product at that time now i hire people who can do things in
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areas better than i can that i don't have expertise in. when we first opened, you would come up and we would prepare the yogurt for you. one thing we noticed was a growing demand among our ke customers was you can get it yourself and pay by muhow much u got. we didn't know how to do that model. as we went out to different markets, customers wanted that control and that diversity. by listening to the customer and being adaptive and just reactive to this opportunity, we now have full serve and self-serve and customers love us for that. >> time to answer some of your business questions. the first one comes from dane. he writes, i do work for large
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corporations. some are not paying for services render in a timely manner. being a small business i can't afford to hold onto paper that long. i'm looking into hiring a collection agency. are there alternatives that i may try. there are definitely. collection agencies are your last result. >> big guy with a baseball bat. >> what can you do? >> many large corporations are going to electronic payments. it's an option. i can't understand a business that don't take credit cards. you are talking about collecting your money so if there are fees involved, you build that into your cost structure. take credit cards if you're not doing it you should be. >> we get this question a lot from people not getting paid by other small businesses. in that case it's often because they don't have money themselves. in this case it sounds like the companies have fun, mare just not giving it up. >> large companies will take as long as they want to pay you if you let them. i'm a big believer in you set the rules for your business.
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other companies will fall in line with the rules you set. if your yuls are we get paid 50% ahead of time and get paid on this delivery point, do that. absolutely collect via credit card. the bigger question is what are you doing that's not a unique experience and unique entity for that company that company, and commodity based and if you're worried if they're not going to pay you or try to get money in advance then there's something wrong there. >> do you think sometimes you just get lost in the fray? >> i do. >> and you need to call them. >> you don't call them after because if it's unbelievable if your voice mail goes to a lady named betty. who will be getting my invoice and who do i call if there are any problems?
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a few days before it's due, you want to make a proactive call and you want to make sure it's read per system and ready for payment. >> this is from scott. how do i break into the corporate supply chain? you're laughing. i'm going to start, yanik. >> i'm a big believer in piggy backing. so if you don't have the manpower to get out there and get people that are decision makers and someone in that office has the relationships and is doing it in a great way, go find those people and piggyback and either work deals with their sales reps on the side or work deals on a retro basis and piggyback on whoever is doing it. >> you know we get those for government contracts. >> why reinvent the wheel. someone else has figured it out and doing it really well. it's 2011 and it's still who you know. so even the big corporations and all of the technology that's out
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there. a lot of people are on linkedin, nowada nowadays. >> that's why i use linkedin, and use it all of the time. >> brian. we own an art restoration company. beside ours website, we do print advertising in specialty magazines and have videos youtube. and other than walking around wearing a sandwich board and ringing a bell, what else is there to do? >> it's something i could care less about because i have nothing to know about art, but when you think about someone that really knows something as a specialist like that, what he's doing is good. he needs to identify himself and separate himself so he should be write something more. if he likes to speak he should be public speaking and there are trade magazines and make himself into an expert. someone that people want to go to to get his opinion or go to a lecture that he's talking about. so one step above just blasting
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out the advertising and the e-mail. differentiate yourself and make yourself a professional in that area. >> search engine optimization would be important for this type of thing, too. >> i think it would be easy because he's got such a specialty and such a niche that he could go for the really, really specifics key words and probably target even specific artists and specificier as of art, typeses of art work to dell dig in deep and to make it work and be cost effective. >> thank you very much for all of that advice. it was helpful. if any of you have a question for our experts all you to do is go to the website, it is openforum.com/yourbusiness. again, the website is openforum.com/yourbusiness or if you'd rather e-mail us your questions and your comments. the address is yourbusiness@msnbc.com. as we have all experienced,
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small business owners have problems to deal with. my next guest says that the people are successful don't necessarily know the answer to all of their issues, but they know what questions to ask. robert kaplan is a professor of management practice at the harvard business school, and he is also author of the new book "who to ask of the person in the mirror." good to see you. >> good to see you, j.j. we were talking before about small business and it's lonely. even if you're the top of four people, it is lonely. >> i find that small business leaders often feel more isolated and more alone than ceos of big companies and i've dealt with both and the reason far is they often built that business themselves. it may be part of a family where they don't think they can confide in other family members, and so when they come to harvard they are very anxious to want to be able to talk and to have someone to listen to, and one of
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the things i advise them is you need to build a support group especially for small business leaders because you do get very isolated. >> the first one what is your vision for your business. presumably, you had a vision so how often should you be asking yourself? >> vision is not touchy feely. vision is what is your distinctive competence and how do you add value to customers and how often do you need to ask it? i would argue at least every six months to a year, but when the environment is changing like little its now, you probably need to ask it more frequently, any time the customers change and the world changes you need to make sure your value proposition and you're thinking about it. >> that's hard, too, because often you get stuck and you don't want to pay attention to the outside factors like the economy.
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>> it's uncomfortable. i just prefer to be in a rhythm. i like the way things are set up and i don't want to change it. emotionally it's very difficult to face the fact, we have to revisit it. >> to your next question. what are your top three priorities to get to that vision. if you've got a vision, one of the three most important tasks you must do well. normally when i talk to one business person they may have a clear vision, but they haven't talked about the three or four tasks and most of them are saying, gee, i work all week and my husband is going to kill me or my wife is going to kill me. the next question is do you match our time with priorities and when a business is struggling they're not clear on their top priorities or they are and they're not matching their time with them and they've got to get that discipline and i try trooi to gets them to ask the question to focus that. >> you know what's so funny? of course, i know to do that,
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but the number of people who actually do it, very low. >> that's why i suggest when i started a support group. you just need -- you have someone ask you this or you need to ask. so when i sit with a business leader, and i ask them a question i don't need to say another word because the light goes on in their head and they go, oh. i find the question is more important than the answer. >> the last one you say, too, is find who are your key lieutenants. >> you need to list somebody -- okay. you need to start delegating the things that are not your priorities and they start thinking i don't think i can. by the way, i don't have time to think about my vision and priorities. i'm too busy. and then we start talking about who their direct reports are, and i say to them, make sure if you have the direct reports are they the right people? that's an emotional question and a tough one particularly if they're with you, but you've got to either help them, coach them or supplement them, but you have
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to face it or else it's very difficult to drive your business. >> rob, thank you. i think we get so in the weeds running our own small business that we often forget to step back and do the big picture things that we need to do especially now. >> thank you for giving us the four questions. >> thank you, j.j. now go help people. feedback is crucial for small businesses looking to grow, and if you're looking for a way to get immediate cut ofs per responses, our website of the week might come in hand pep boxwire.com is a suggestion box for businesses. this helps customers anonymously give feedback and the service collects this data through a dashboard and business analysts can analyze a trend. they range from dollar 19 to $29 a month. to learn more about today's show just click on our website, it's openforum.com/yourbusiness.
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you'll find all of today's segments plus web-exclusive content with more information to help your business grow and don't forget to become a fan of the show on facebook. we love getting your feedback. you can also follow us on twitter it's @msnbcyour biz. >> next we'll mitt those who were hit hard by the recession. >> the first, we worked summer and winter and then we went four months without a phone call. >> find out how roar experts gives this business a boost. remember, we make your business our business. sam: i'm sam chernin. owner of sammy's fish box. i opened the first sammy's back in 1966. my employees are like family.